The Swedish Winter Sports Research Center

20 Jun

I love the idea of using my brain to make by body better. Do some research, develop a plan, apply it, analyze the results, do more research, refine the plan and repeat the whole process.

The process reminds me of the first year I spent in France on a shoestring budget. I developed a reliable way of tracking my financial progress toward the goal of staying a long time on next to nothing a day. Once I was confident that metric would keep me living within my means, I was free to focus on more interesting things than my cash situation. I refined my strategies of savoir vivre to maximize both learning and enjoyment.

That experience gave me the taste for empirical continuous improvement processes applied personally. But since we’re much smarter collectively than individually, I’ve also been trying to seize all possible opportunity to learn from others. The ski courses I got from my employer helped me make great strides in developing my classic technique. The instructor was very pleased with me the second time he saw me. He complimented me for working hard to apply the lessons I got from him in the first course.

And it’s true, I do work hard. When I decide to do something, I can have unwavering focus. But more than that I think I have a natural capacity for improvement in sports. As a child I won more than my share of ‘most improved’ awards. I tend to start out really shitty but make big strides. I’m usually uncoordinated and look plain goofy at first, but slowly but surely I get better. That maybe wasn’t the case with surfing because in Southern California waves big enough to move my mass didn’t come often enough. Happily, though, with skiing complimented by rollerskiing I can maintain the regularity I need to grow.

My rollerskiing course last week has again brought me a lot in terms of learning from others. I’m surprised by the extent of the impact. It has not only bettered my double poling, which was the subject of the lesson, but has also had a big impact on my skating. That course has added a facet to the prism through which I analyze my technique and opened up a new spectrum of details to focus on to grow. These details include the balance of my body weight and the starting point from which I initiate my pole plant.

Slowly, but surely, the little bits of a bigger puzzle are falling together. I’m coming to the fairly revolutionary conclusion for me that I’m not that uncoordinated. Rather, I have a capacity for motor learning that’s very intellectual. I have a strong ability to organize my movements in my brain, but must pass through long phases of explicitly paying attention to and organizing my movements before I am able to forget what I must do and have it come naturally. In short, I’m not a ‘natural’, but it is precisely that which gives me a stronger than average capacity for improvement over time.

Given this taste for research based learning, I really like the above video from the Swedish Winter Sports Research Center. As they say in the film, “the winner takes all, yes, but why does he win? There’s an explanation to most everything”.


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